This past weekend was the first of what I hope to be many trips to the local boy scout camp grounds. Despite my initial fears of us having to leave early, we had an excellent time. Our only prior camping experience resulted in us packing up our tent at one in the morning and heading home so Caleb (and Momma and Daddy) could go to sleep. The thought of sleeping outside in a tent was just too exciting. He fell asleep, strapped into his booster-seat about five minutes after leaving the campground. So, I wasn’t exactly sure how this weekend was going to pan out.
We arrived a little later than I had hoped to. This was due to a quick snack run on our way to the camp. I wasn’t sure what the cook had planned for us, but I could guarantee that whatever it was, the boy wasn’t going to eat it. We had spaghetti, which he did a pretty good job on before asking for chips. After a little negotiating, all good meals involve some sort of bartering, he finished his meal and we dove into some chips.
After the meal, it was time for lessons. But, before we could start, we had to get the boys to sit down in a circle. If you’ve ever tried to get boys to line-up, or sit down, you know that it’s kind of like herding cats. After about twenty minutes of “You need to spread out”, “You sit over there”, and “Stop hitting each other”, the boys were finally in a shape that closely resembled a circle. Or maybe an oval. Alright, it was more like a puddle.
Our fearless leader, Karl, had an interesting lesson planned for the boys. Topics covered just about everything from astronomy to Egyptian life/death philosophy, Copernican heresies, and my personal favorite, Greek mythology. By the end of his lesson, our little circle ended up looking like a college auditorium, with everyone facing the professor. The only difference was that Karl’s students were actually interested in what he was saying.
With the lessons over for the night, it was time to wear the boys out. Can you say “Night Hike!” Three or four flashlights, five or six adults, and fifteen to twenty boys headed out into the 285-acre wilderness of the camp ground for a little exercise and an introduction to Sasquatch. I stayed behind to start clearing tables and chairs for our Camp In, while the boy went out into the mysterious beyond. When he returned, he told me many things about Big Foot and even claimed to have seen “red eyes” glowing in the forest.
With the Sasquatchery over, there was only one thing left to do before we turned in for the night, i.e., ghost stories by the camp fire. With the boy scout leader ruling out any gruesome/bloody tales, I knew I wouldn’t be telling any stories. It’s just as well, because the stories we heard were quite good. They were tales, not in the sense of unbelievable, Scooby-Doo type ghosts, but more in the vein of close family members dying and trying to communicate with their loved ones afterwards. To me, these are more frightening. After twenty or so minutes of these stories, many of which had some boys covering their ears, we expected them to go to sleep.
And, go to sleep, they did. I was amazed that none of the children freaked out in the dark. Personally, I couldn’t sleep at all. It wasn’t the ghost stories so much as it was the atmosphere. First off, I didn’t bring an air-mattress, something, I now regret. The tiles on the floor where forged from the same ice-cold materials as Viking swords. And, they pierced the skin through my sleeping bag, much in the same way.
If the cold wasn’t enough to keep me awake, the smell of my son’s feet were. Boys’ feet stink. I’ve found that various socks affect podiatric stench differently. Black, dress socks tend to increase the nasal offense to a higher degree than any other sock. These are what he wore that night. As if laying side-by-side weren’t bad enough, throughout the course of the night, he slowly slid across the floor until his feet were right in my face. Morning couldn’t come soon enough, but would it be a better experience?